Crew Misjudged Wind Conditions While Flying In The South Dakota Black Hills
The crew of a MAFFS C-130 engaged in a firefight mission misjudged wind conditions and flew into the area of a microburst, which caused the airplane to impact the ground. That is the assessment of an Air Force accident panel investigating the crash.
The accident occurred July 1. In releasing an executive summary of the full report from the Air Force Mobility Command, Brig. Gen. Randall Guthrie said that the pilots' actions allowed two crewmembers in the back of the plane to survive the accident.
Stars and Stripes reports that the investigation found that that the C-130 Hercules tanker flew into a microburst just a few minutes after the pilot narrowly avoided an accident from another downdraft. Guthrie said that the crew had "struggled" to regain airspeed after their first drop of fire retardant, and the airplane encountered the microburst on the second run. He said that the prop from the number 4 engine struck the door near the back of the aircraft, and gave the loadmasters there an opportunity to escape. The four crewmen in the cockpit were killed instantly, Guthrie said.
The General said that the crew should have aborted the second run given the weather conditions, but added that they were not solely to blame for the accident. He said that a smaller lead plane did not adequately communicate the conditions to the MAFFS crew, but that considering that airplane had "barely escaped" impacting the ground, the lack of communications was "understandable." He also said that there was no ground control that could have provided a warning about weather conditions.
The full report has not been released. A safety investigation board will determine if any safety recommendations need to be made.